Living in Darkness

The sun rose at 4:18 am on Monday May 8, 2017. I awoke several hours later, though I’m not certain of the exact time. I was in labor, excited to meet my baby girl, oblivious to the fact that her heart had already stopped.  And although Corva was born at 3:24 PM it was the darkest moment of my life. Ever. On that spring day,  in the drizzly mid-afternoon, I was submerged into my own winter solstice. The sun set three hours and seventeen minutes after delivery, the world’s darkness emulating my own.

Sun standing still. The winter solstice occurs today, December 21 at 11:27 AM. It is the shortest day of the year where I live, which makes it the darkest–only 8 hours and 47 minutes of daylight.  This morning the sun rose at 7:09 AM and tonight it will set at 3:57 PM. But tomorrow the daylight extends by six seconds. And the next day by eleven seconds. And the next day by sixteen seconds. Bit by bit, the days lengthen, the sun burns later into the evening hours.


I have been living in darkness for 32 weeks now. In the very beginning, those darkest of days, I couldn’t even imagine light. I couldn’t fathom how I would survive such pain. But, gradually, light re-enters my life. It isn’t very much light– a candle as opposed to floodlights–and yet I am beginning to feel a little bit of hope. Some days.


And in 20 weeks, on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 there will be 14 hours and 35 minutes of daylight, reaching toward the summer solstice. 


I still believe in summer days.

The seasons always change
And life will find a way.

Advertisements

I Miss Me

Tonight, at the dinner table, my husband, told me that Holly had her baby (2nd boy). I couldn’t even respond. I didn’t ask what his name is or how much he weighs. I didn’t ask anything. And it’s not because I wish her baby would die. It’s not that. It’s that I am so incredibly sad that my baby is missing from me.


Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend,  we took Astoria to Magic Kingdom. In the middle of Adventureland, a woman was screaming her child’s name, stretching her neck in an unnatural way, her eyes were frantic, her voice was panicky. I almost started crying.


One day I was attempting to explain the story–Christmas version–of Jesus to Astoria Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the name Jesus as she kept chanting “Jesus Beezus, Beezus, Jesus.” (We’ve been reading quite a bit of Ramona lately).


At gymnastics practice, a girl slammed her fingers in the door leading from the parent observation room into the gym. The scream silenced the buzz of the observation room. I had a difficult time holding my tears back.


Astoria is recovering from pink eye. Last night I went to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription. The pharmacist asked if she was the only child in the house. Yes. Then he went on to explain that when there are babies in the home, infected with pink eye from school-aged siblings, that’s the bigger concern. Well, at least Corva can’t get pinkeye, I thought to myself wryly.


A few weeks ago, my husband had beers with Holly’s husband. The next morning he remarked “Holly says she misses you.”

And I thought: me too. I miss me too.

Christmas Conundrum

The conundrum being this: how do I include my absent (dead) baby in my holiday traditions? One of the nagging topics in my head has been honoring Corva at Christmas. Obviously, I do not have a living 7 ½ month old baby in my home to open gifts (or have her older sister open gifts for her). Initially I thought I would purchase gifts for Corva from Santa. Then I vetoed that idea–what would we do with the gifts? Somehow, I needed to be able to give gifts to someone in honor of Corva.

My parents never honored St. Nicholas DayThat is, Santa came to our house only on Christmas Eve, December 24th. However, I did have a childhood friend who had a St. Nick visit on December 5th, and it was a tradition during my husband’s childhood, so hey, why not? (Coincidentally? Both my childhood friend and my husband were raised in Catholic homes. Is this a Catholic tradition?)

This year St. Nick came to our house on December 5th (in actuality, a hungover mommy awoke sometime around 1 am on December 6th and pulled the gift bag from the spare room closet). There were small gifts in the bag: chapstick, fruit snacks, Christmas socks. And a card:

20171215_214902
20171215_214837.jpg

Several days later, I sought out the Salvation Army table at my local mall and found this tag, for a baby girl, 8 months old. Just about the same age Corva would be, had she lived.

20171215_214750.jpg

This evening, my living daughter and I went to TJ Maxx and acquired our loot:
20171215_214653.jpg

I hope that I am instilling something good in my living daughter, not something desperate and depressing, though I often wonder. I will add to this gift, but I am satisfied that Astoria was able to come with me to choose some toys and books for this baby–toys and books that she would have chosen for her baby sister.


How do you honor your deceased loved one during the winter holiday season? If you are newly bereaved, has it been a struggle to identify new traditions for your family?

Grief and the Holidays

In the weeks leading up to the winter holiday season, I saw social media posts and blog posts on “surviving grief during the holidays.” Other “loss moms” hosted “live chats”. But I had no idea how the holidays would hit me. After all, I have minimal memories with Corva. Perhaps that is what makes baby-loss such a different type of loss. One year ago, I was 18 weeks pregnant. I didn’t yet know if we would have a baby boy or another girl (although Astoria desperately wanted a sister and vowed that a brother would go to the dungeon!) While pregnant, I shopped, wrapped, and assembled an ice castle! I dreamt of what the holiday season would be for our family one year later. I certainly never imagined that I would be grieving the death of my precious baby.

Honestly, I was rooting for skipping Christmas this year. It’s just too painful to think about what “should have been”. But Astoria is at such an age where Christmas is so magical and she is so excited. I don’t believe I have ever put my tree up this early in the season.

Christmas looks a bit different for me this year. I spent a good amount of time attempting to create a holiday photo card on Shutterfly the other day. But feeling neither merry nor happy, I couldn’t come up with a good phrase for the card. I was going to say something about peace, but I’m not feeling very peaceful either. So then I just said, fuck it.

But we have a tree. And plans to bake cookies for Santa. My daughter wears a Santa hat and skips around the house singing “Jingle Bells.” So this is Christmas 2017.


How have holidays changed for you in your post-grief life?

Not Ready to Make Nice

The other morning, as my daughter and I were heading down the garage steps to get into the Jeep, she stopped abruptly and plopped herself on the top step, crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “You stepped on me!” she wailed. I did? I didn’t think I was anywhere near her but perhaps I did step on the heel of her shoe. I didn’t argue with her because her perception was that I had hurt her, even if in my mind I wasn’t near her at all. Instead, I sat down next to her and gathered her in my arms. “I am so sorry, I did not mean to hurt you. Will you forgive me?” And then it occurred to me: “Do you know what forgive means?”

These are my most candid moments as a parent–the ones where I really have to stop and think about something in order to carefully explain it in 4-year-old terms. What does it mean to forgive?

I explained that when we forgive someone, we still love them even if they hurt us.

Okay, it’s not the most complete definition, but it was the best I could devise on the spot with minimal coffee.

But really, forgiveness is much more complex. For me, related to the death of my baby, forgiveness is muddled with anger, betrayal, sadness, and guilt. I’m angry with my midwife, I’m angry with myself, I’m angry with the universe.

FORGIVENESS:

“A conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

Wow. How does a person even start? To forgive my midwife. To forgive myself. To forgive the situation that nobody can change. 

Why does it matter? Why can’t I live the rest of my life harboring this guilt, anger, and bitterness? Advice about forgiveness abounds. We hear it from psychologists, poets, religious leaders and our mothers.


But all of these feel-good sunshiny quotes I found online–I say “Eff you.”

My baby died.

My heart hurts.

I just cannot make myself forgive that easily.

I’m still mad as hell.


Is there anyone you haven’t been able to forgive? Have any of you been able to forgive someone without receiving an apology? Has anyone received an apology but still wasn’t able to forgive that person?